Feeling Like A Foreigner At Home - The Downside of Travel

It’s lovely to sit by the fireplace enjoying the warmth radiating from fiercely burning fire, watching the flames move and change colours. I didn’t realized how much I missed it, it’s something that really reminds me of home and my time in my parents house. Not only as a child, but also as an adult.

I was excited when we decided to leave the cold and incoming bitter winter of Berlin to spend Christmas in Puglia with my family and friends; something I hadn’t done for many years, plus it would had been the first Italian Christmas for Dale. Despite it not being the first time we’d returned to my hometown since we became nomads, being in Alberobello for Christmas meant something quite special for me and I was really looking forward to it. There were no presents exchanged (which we all agreed to skip), instead only time spent together whilst eating some delicious Christmas food, playing cards and other games with the sole purpose of being together and nothing else. This is the only thing I ever really liked about this time of the year so I was happy to be a part of it again after such a long time.

Playing Cards - Feeling Like A Foreigner At Home - The Downside Of Travel

I definitely enjoyed our Christmas in Puglia, but something didn’t quite felt right for me and I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I think it all started when people curiously kept asking questions about our change of diet, such as;”Why are you vegan?”, or things like ”How do you get all your proteins and other necessary nutritions?”. It didn’t bother me to answer. I was actually happy to tell them our reasons for being vegans, and I understood why it was so weird for them and not easy to comprehend.

My mother in particular has being outstanding, she made and keeps making amazing vegan food for us. Everybody has been very accommodating and at every family meal there is something specially made for us which is really very sweet of them, but some of them still don’t want to understand my change, it’s like they listen to me but won’t accept it.

A Plate of Focaccia - Feeling Like A Foreigner At Home - The Downside Of Travel

The Realization

It has been hard for me in some ways, but at the end of the day it won’t affect my choice, though it does make me see things and also people differently. We came to Puglia and Alberobello for the sole purpose of spending the festivities here before setting off again to who knows where. I’ve never really had the intention of staying any longer and the more time I spend here the more I convince myself that I don’t fit or belong here anymore. I love my family and friends to pieces, but I realized I’m not the same Franca that left years ago and I never will be again.

Franca and Her Cousin - Feeling Like A Foreigner At Home - The Downside Of Travel

I’m happy to be the person I am today, and I have no intention of getting back in my old habits and conventions. It’s not all about being vegan, in fact that it is something that only recent has changed. Sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own town, and sometimes with a small few my friends I feel like we don’t have as much in common anymore to talk about.

At the beginning people might be interested in your latest adventure, or they may ask what was the country you’ve been to you liked the most, but how can I summarize by restricting it to only one country? I simply say that each place is special for different reasons and that it isn’t easy to pick only one place above all. So I start talking hoping to share our stories and make them understand what travelling is all about for us, but soon I get stopped by the second most asked question; “When and where are you going to settle down?” also “When will you return back to a normal life?”

After hearing this you can imagine how I could feel. It’s like they didn’t even listen to what I was trying to explain. I soon came to the realization that they’ll never understand that right now this is my normal life, this is the way I’m living, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Is it that difficult to take in and appreciate?

Feeling Out Of Place

Life here carries on much like it should and it’s not true that nothing ever changes. Everytime I return my parents are older, friends have more children, and my cousins are getting engaged. Things do change here too in a more conventional way (if I can say that) and I acknowledge these changes – so why don’t they appreciate the new and different Franca? It’s not like they reject me – quite the opposite in fact, I’ve never felt unwelcomed – but I get the feeling that some people simply don’t want to understand where I am now and who I’ve become.

No matter how accommodating people are with me, they don’t get my craving to discover new places, to meet new people, to live unforgettable adventures that will mark me for life, and that I wouldn’t have been able to experience if I stayed in my little hometown enjoying (or maybe not) another kind of life. After I spend a couple of weeks here I already feel like it is time to go, I like being out there in a completely foreign place for me, trying to embrace the local culture, and somehow being part of it only until it’s time to move and start all over again.

What people back ‘home’ sometimes don’t understand is that for me travelling is more than a passion, is becoming a lifestyle. What someone else may call a ‘travel bug’, I call my daily routine and my reason for living. It makes me feel alive, happy, and satisfied; no matter how hard it can be at times.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I don’t miss my family and friends, not at all.

Franca and Her Grandmother - Feeling Like A Foreigner At Home - The Downside Of Travel
Franca and Her Brother - Feeling Like A Foreigner At Home - The Downside Of Travel

Travelling has been a natural way to select my friendships. Only the people that truly cared about who I was before and the person I’ve now become are still my friends and we stay very much in touch, even if we don’t see each other that often. These people are the ones that at least try to understand how I’ve changed, my new priorities, and my way of living. All the others have chosen to be blind to that, and sometimes I get the feeling that people think I’m ungrateful for the life I had before because I ditched it for the uncertainty and unknown. These people clearly don’t realize how hard it can be being on the road and constantly moving from one place to the other, they think I’m on holiday all the time, holding a cocktail by a warm pool and sunbathing the entire time. They don’t want to know what it’s really like, or how much time and effort goes into it all. I love travelling so much that I really want people to understand what it means and what it can do to you. There is so much out there to be discovered and seen – no, lived.

Being in my hometown is always a mixture of feelings. It’s like being on a rollercoaster. I enjoying being here but at the same time I cannot wait to leave again. After travelling for the very first time and having spent time away from home, all I want to do is be out there in the unknown again.

I know this is something many travellers experience, especially when they go back to their old jobs and their previous lives, so I know I’m not the only one. I just find it a bit upsetting at times because I love my family and friends so much, yet I cannot be part of their world anymore – at least not now, and surely not in the same way I used to be.

I guess in future I’ll just have to explore home just as I would in a foreign country – by forging new friendships and making more observations.

Have you felt the same after a long time away from home?